Harvard Mental Health Letter

Helping psychiatric patients to stop smoking

Intensive treatment strategies are necessary, and relapses are common.

Nearly half of the cigarettes sold in the United States are bought by people with some type of mental illness, according to one of the few studies to look at a nationally representative sample of people with a range of psychiatric diagnoses. The same study found that 41% of the most severely mentally ill were smokers, compared with 35% of people who had ever had a psychiatric problem, and 23% of people in the general population.

The long-term health effects of smoking are well known and help explain why patients with chronic psychiatric disorders are two to six times as likely as people in the general population to die from smoking-related illnesses such as lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. A high rate of smoking also may shorten the life span of patients with chronic mental illness, on average, by 25 years compared to the general population.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »